Three of Hollywood’s top agency chiefs are now calling on the entertainment industry to cut ties with Kanye West given the rapper and fashion mogul’s anti-Semitic rhetoric on multiple platforms and interviews.
On Sunday evening, UTA chief Jeremy Zimmer sent a company-wide memo to staff titled “Rise of Anti Semitism and Hate,” writing that West’s comments “embolden others to amplify their vile beliefs.”
Zimmer made reference to a widely circulated Oct. 23 photo of a group of seven people who stood on a 405 freeway overpass in Los Angeles with signs that included “Kanye is right about the Jews,” as well as The Mapping Project, an anonymous effort that purported to show links between Jewish businesses in Massachusetts and “support for the colonization of Palestine.”
“Whether it’s signs on the 405 in Los Angeles, flyers on doorsteps, mapping Jewish businesses in Boston, or marching with hoods and crosses, all of these behaviors ignite the embers of bigotry, and they must not be tolerated,” Zimmer wrote.
The Beverly Hills-based agency CEO’s missive follows a similarly themed Oct. 19 column in the Financial Times by Ari Emanuel, who runs the entertainment and sports company Endeavor, which owns talent agency WME. “Those who continue to do business with West are giving his misguided hate an audience,” Emanuel wrote. “There should be no tolerance anywhere for West’s anti-Semitism.”
Emanuel added: “West is not just any person — he is a pop culture icon with millions of fans around the world. And among them are young people whose views are still being formed.”
Meanwhile, Gersh agency president Bob Gersh weighed in Sunday, telling Variety, “People really need to hammer these companies in business with him to impress upon them how wrong it is to support somebody like this.”
Following an appearance at Paris Fashion Week in which West donned a “White Lives Matter” shirt Oct. 3, he went to post a since-removed Oct. 8 tweet that called for “death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE,” wrote posts on Instagram that were removed for violating content restrictions, made a stop on Fox News that included a controversial interview with Tucker Carlson (that later included unaired portions leaked to Vice News), taped an interview with the podcast Drink Champs (that was later removed from YouTube) and stopped for an interview on NewsNation with Chris Cuomo in which West said, “I don’t believe in that term,” in reference to anti-Semitism.
Companies and partners that have business with West, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes to be at $2 billion, are under increasing pressure to cut ties with the rapper. Adidas, which has a distribution deal for West’s Yeezy shoe and fashion brand, stated earlier this month that it had placed its partnership “under review,” while French label Balenciaga cut ties Oct. 21 and said it “no longer [had] any relationship” with West.
In seeming response to having his tweets and Instagram posts restricted, West made a deal with the backers of a small social media platform called Parler. On Oct. 17, the company — which calls itself the “premier free speech social media app” — sent out a press release stating that it had agreed to sell itself to the artist. Parler’s CEO is George Farmer, the husband of conservative activist Candace Owens, who also donned the “White Lives Matter” shirt at Paris Fashion Week.
Zimmer’s full memo to UTA staff is below:
I’m saddened to write that once again we’re seeing a surge in anti-Semitism in our communities, fueled by Kanye’s comments and a resulting in an incident in Los Angeles yesterday where hateful banners were placed over the 405 freeway.
Regrettably, anti-Semitism, racism and many forms of hate and intolerance are part of the fabric of society. Generally, they live as a plague eroding the health of communities and are combatted by understanding, tolerance and the general goodness of most people.
But throughout history some have used their public platform to spew the plague out loud and spread the contagion to dangerous effect. Kanye is the latest to do so, and we’re seeing how his words embolden others to amplify their vile beliefs. I’ve also seen copies of horribly anti-Semitic flyers left this weekend on the doorsteps of homes in L.A. neighborhoods, showing that the 405 banners are not the end of it.
Equally worrying is what is happening on college campuses, where concern and debate about Zionism becomes veiled anti-Semitism. Wellesley College recently has been at the epicenter of this dilemma. The Wellesley newspaper recently supported a mapping project showing the nearby Jewish owned businesses, and suggesting that they be boycotted. The assumption being that because they are owned by Jews, they must be anti-Palestine. This is the kind of dangerous thinking that can lead to inflaming anti-Semitism and hate, and there have been examples of it at other schools.
Whether it’s signs on the 405 in Los Angeles, flyers on doorsteps, mapping Jewish businesses in Boston, or marching with hoods and crosses, all of these behaviors ignite the embers of bigotry, and they must not be tolerated.
As a company we stand for a wide diversity of voices and ideas. But we can’t support hate speech, bigotry or anti-Semitism. Please support the boycott of Kanye West. Powerful voices spewing hatred have frequently driven people to do hateful things. Let’s not be lulled into thinking this time it’s different.